TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowls is sounding the alarm about a dip in student enrollment in Florida's K-12 public schools.
On Thursday, he sent a letter to the state's district school superintendents regarding student membership counts and federal funding.
In the letter, Sprowls told the superintendents that the state's total full-time equivalent (FTE) student membership had dropped by 87,811 students statewide.
Sprowls called this drop "alarming" and said that the number represents over three percent of the total student population in the state.
The FTE number is used by the state to budget funding based on student enrollment and the education services provided by local school systems to students.
"Typically, the school district’s Florida Education Finance Program funds are adjusted to the degree the FTE counts diverge from the forecasted student enrollment estimates," Sprowls wrote.
However, Commissioner Richard Corcoran issued an Executive Order allowing school districts to keep the entirety of their estimated per-student funding even if the actual number of students being served is significantly less.
While the provision allowed school districts to continue getting full FTE funding, Sprowls said the Florida House is seeking to align the per-pupil funding of K-12 schools in the 2021-2022 State Budget with actual enrollment in those schools.
Sprowls urged superintendents to make sure each student is accounted for as to not put their funding in jeopardy.
"The Florida House strongly encourages you to work with every available State and local resource, including social services agencies and law enforcement, to locate these missing children and, if they are still residents of Florida, ensure that they are properly enrolled in a K-12 education option allowed under Florida law," Sprowls wrote. "We have a moral obligation not to allow any of these children to slip through the cracks in the system."
Sprowls also warned of the federal government's one-time funding payments and told the superintendents to allocate federal dollars to non-recurring items or projects rather than recurring items.
The House Speaker ended the letter by thanking the superintendents for their dedication and service.
You can read Sprowls' full letter by clicking here.